"Do something about the causes you are passionate about. Do it in whichever space you are. Do it through your art form. If you working in an office, talk to the people around you. Ask about their issues. Find out which organisations that can help them. Help our tribe grow," said Taranjit Kaur.
30-year-old Taranjit has carved a niche for herself in the entertainment industry as an actor, writer, producer and a poet. While her poetry highlighting the condition of women might have struck a chord with the audience, there is so much more to the value she has been adding with her work.
Shortly after the coronavirus-induced lockdown was announced in the country, the actor returned to Mumbai and partnered with one of her friends to start an initiative that would provide groceries and other essentials to the underprivileged in the suburb of the city.
However, when the activities around distributing the basic necessities made her interact with the women belonging to the marginalized groups, she realised that the 'essentials' lacked something that was extremely crucial to this community—sanitary pads.
"If grains and soap were essential items, what about sanitary pads? Was someone taking care of the menstrual hygiene of these women?" she asked.
Kaur had always believed that instead of thinking about bringing a change, one should work on bringing a change. Immediately she got together with producer Chitra Subramaniam and decided to harness the power of social media to not just appeal people to donate sanitary napkins but also connect like-minded people to her cause.
With their persistent efforts, PadSquad came to life that had two basic ideas for functioning. First, the contribution by the interested donors towards the initiative would be entirely cashless and second was to keep human interaction to a minimum amid the health-threats posed by the coronavirus outbreak.
A team of two was later joined by co-founders Mayuri Joshi Dhavale, Gillian Pinto, Niiya Niiya, Monica Rajeja, Surya Balakrishnan, Devashish Makhija and Shillpi Singh.
She said that after the post regarding her donation activity went online, help started pouring in from across the country. Women from more than 22 cities and towns in India extended support to the cause and within a matter of just four days more than 20,000 pads were donated by individuals.
"It was an overwhelming response. We could not have expected it," said an elated Taranjit.
She further added that at present there are 50 official Squadders in major cities across the country including Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Indore, Bhopal, Guwahati, Kalimpong who have been taking this initiative forward.
Another significant aspect that Taranjit's team has been striving towards has been to ensure that environment is not adversely impacted due to their actions. Distributing eco-friendly biodegradable sanitary pads has been an essential component of their mission.
In their efforts, PadSquad has collaborated with NGO StoneSoup, that supplies re-usable pads for those who are comfortable using it.
"How can I take care of a woman's menstrual health while taking care of the environment, is a question we always ask ourselves," said the social entrepreneur.
She said that the distribution of reusable pads has been carried out in Mumbai and would be rolled out in other cities in some time.
"This is the only way to reduce menstrual plastic waste," she added.
Stressing on the importance of social media, she said, "Through social media, handled by Surya Balakrishna, PadSquad has been able to distribute nearly 3 lakh pads all around the country so far. We have also been able to make connections with other NGOs to take menstrual hygiene and education to those who need it most. For example, they are in talks with an NGO in Bangalore to offer a free gynaecology helpline to women in the city."
Taranjit has been on a mission to create awareness on the deplorable conditions of women and how the society can be made a better place for the community through her art and with PadSquad she has been extensively involved in ensuring the provision of basic necessities to the less privileged women.
"Initially, my family was reluctant as I was going outside and risking life during COVID-19 pandemic. I, too, felt apprehensive at first. But as I saw the effect of my work on the people I was helping, I became more emboldened but now have my family's full support.
I plan to continue working in Siddharth Nagar at least till the end of 2020, or until the time the residents can take care of themselves," added the actor.
This story has been received from Giving Circle. It is a platform that connects social change makers, donors, and volunteers. They are working to scale up these initiatives.